Countries across Europe – including the UK – make an international commitment to presenting disabled dancers, performers, directors and choreographers on mainstream stages as part of Europe Beyond Access. This project, coordinated by British Council, demonstrates how transnational collaborations offers powerful benefits for artists, venues and the wider public. Disabled artists and industry leaders involved discuss how multi-country partnerships:
- Raise the standards of cultural venues and theatres by presenting the most innovative work.
- Enable artistic brilliance through new collaborations and the circulation of ideas.
- Help theatres draw in and engage more diverse audiences that reflect a country’s population.
Artists featured: Giuseppe Comuniello (Oriente Occidente, Italy), Jo Bannon (British Council, UK), Madeleine Månsson (Skånes Dansteater, Sweden), Pedro Ricardo Henry (Sally Dansgezelschap, Netherlands).
Industry leaders featured: Tanja Mangalanayagam (Project Manager, Skånes Dansteater), Amelie Deuflhard (Artistic Director, Kampnagel), Joanne ter Veen (Project Manager, Holland Dance Festival), Adam Benjamin (co-founder of Candoco Dance Company, workshop leader), Jeanefer Jean-Charles (choreographer, workshop leader), Michael Turinsky (choreographer, Austria).
Enhanced Transcript and descriptive introduction
Visually, the film is a mixture of to-camera interviews with various disabled artists and industry leaders interspersed with footage of artists both performing to audiences and also experimenting in workshop environments, usually in a collaborative manner.
The film opens with a white female learning-disabled performer dressed all in black, running in a circle with hand outstretched. Overlaid text reads ‘an international commitment to disabled artists’. Cut to a group of artists sitting in a circle on the floor, with overlaid text reading ‘how everyone benefits from multi-country partnerships’. Cut to a group of integrated group of dancers interacting with the Europe Beyond Access logo and the text ‘A four-year project breaking the glass ceiling for disabled dance and theatre-makers’.
The film switches to artist Giuseppe Comuniello a white man with long dark hair, he is sitting on a sofa. He says: “There is this idea of two different types of art, art for “normal” people and art for disabled people. And, in my opinion, we must eliminate this perception. Also through participating in seminars and laboratories like this that make this art visible to everyone. It’s just really about exchanging ideas and being open to the different perspectives that these artists might have.”
Next, we see Tanja Mangalanayagam a woman of South-Asian descent sitting on a stairway. She says: “Visibility is always key…So who belongs to the stage, what kind of bodies belong to the contemporary dance stage, what voices are being heard, what identities are being seen. So we wanted to extend that idea as ‘to whom does the stage belong to?'” As she talks, the camera cuts to artists participants in workshops and a wheelchair user in a skatepark.
Amelia Deuflhard, a white middle-aged woman with short hair is sat in a large ex-warehouse theatre space. She says: “This is the beginning of something that can get much bigger than I thought.” Camera cuts to more workshops and the skatepark and overlaid text reads ‘raising the standards of our theatres and cultural venues’.
The camera switches back to Tanja, who says: “the international aspect of it is really important, because we also gain ideas and input from how the different artists might work in different contexts in their own countries, so it also allows us to not become insular. It opens up for professional development and for your own artistic practice to grow.”
More workshop scenes show various disabled and non-disabled dancers moving fluidly in a collaborative fashion. As this happens Amelia starts talking again before the camera cuts to her. She says: “It’s very important because we don’t want stagnation in arts, we always want to develop and to bring in new ideas, artists from different cultures coming to our house with a different repertoire of movement, of ideas, political ideas…”
Next, Joanne ter Veen, a white woman with long brown hair is sitting on a vintage sofa, she says: “In the UK they are a lot more further in how they work with inclusive dance, so there’s a lot more knowledge about it. It’s important to work internationally because we can learn a lot from each other, but also we are building the same goal into making dance more inclusive and together we are stronger.” We see more experimentation in the workshop scenes and two dancers embrace.
Dancers using their hands to interact, test and play in a large group. Then we are back with Amelia who remarks: “Often in theatre and dance, people who are not excluded reflect on the exclusion of others. For me, it’s one possibility but it’s not enough. To bring together all those people who didn’t know each other before and to make a process together with them work.I think if we only take this process of the Laboratories, there will be five Laboratories in five cities, and many of the disabled artists will come back and meet again. That’s already an amazing process because very few of them are touring usually. Often it’s a very local work and that’s a big thing.” A learning disabled dancer interacts thoughtfully with large metal barrier and overlaid text reads ‘enabling artistic brilliance’.
The camera then cuts to Jo Bannon, a white woman with albinism and long white hair, who says: “For me these moments are very precious, where you bring together artists from all across Europe with all these different life experiences and different work that they make.”
Madelaine Mansson, a woman with blonde hair seated in a wheelchair says: “I need to meet all of these different artists from around the world to fill up with energy and inspiration from them.”
The camera quickly cuts to Pedro Ricardo Henry, a tall black man with short hair, who says: “It’s emotional. It brings me to another level dance, like capacity, how the human being can be connected with someone that is not from your country or your culture but this connection that you have makes you feel strong and bigger and powerful, and also gives you hope that you can make the way we dance stronger.” As he talks, the camera shows him performing a duet with a white male wheelchair user in a stark white studio space.
Adam Benjamin, a white man with beard and very short hair, and Jeanefer Jean-Charles a black woman with tied back hair are sitting next to each other in a mirrored studio. Adam says “When you have a studio full of people with profound differences, not just physically but in terms of nationality and language, and to watch all of those people in the space, harmoniously, supporting one another, you have something that flies in the face of what essentially wants to drag us back into a place where we can no longer make human choices.” As he talks we see diverse groups of artists interacting in studios and in a skatepark.
Michael Turinsky, a white male wheelchair user with short hair is in the same warehouse-turned-theatre space as Amelia. He says: “I always have insisted on the need for disabled artists, or artists with some difficulties, to take charge of those positions like directing, teaching, curating, programming, producing, initiating…That is happening a lot!” As he talks we see multiple scenes of disabled artists leading workshops, performing and interacting freely.
End title card with the Europe Beyond Access logo and the logos of the 7 partner organisations.